TWO Vietnamese nationals have been charged in relation to a $140,000 cannabis drying operation found in a central Hamilton home on Friday.
Phuong Van Tran, 44, and Hoa Le, 45, appeared in Warrnambool Magistrates Court on Monday charged with possessing and trafficking cannabis.
Mr Le did not apply for bail, entered guilty pleas to both offences and was remanded in custody until May 11.
Mr Tran made an unsuccessful bail application and was remanded in custody until that same date.
Detective Senior Constable Nick Roberts, of the Hamilton police crime investigation unit, said officers executed a search warrant at a George Street address at 8.30am Friday.
He told the court police officers found about 10 kilograms of cannabis in a rear bedroom of the premises, as well as extraction fans and a drying table.
The drugs have an estimated street value of $140,000.
Detective Senior Constable Roberts said the accused men were found asleep on the floor of a bedroom.
They were arrested and conveyed to Hamilton police station.
During police interviews, Mr Tran allegedly said he attended the Hamilton property to do “building works”.
Mr Le said he was there to dry out the cannabis for future sale.
Detective Senior Constable Roberts said there was no evidence of cannabis growing on the premises.
But, he said a photograph on Mr Le’s phone led to a search warrant at a Horsham property which uncovered 272 cannabis plants.
No charges have been laid in relation to that discovery, the court heard.
Detective Senior Constable Roberts said Mr Tran was travelling on a bridging visa and Mr Le an expired visa.
He said he was concerned that if Mr Tran was released on bail, he would be a flight risk.
“(Mr Tran) has no links to the Hamilton area and we believe he was solely there to assist in the harvest of cannabis,” the detective said.
Magistrate Mark Stratmann said Mr Tran had failed to show compelling reasons why he should be released on bail and remanded him in custody.
Detective Sergeant Mark James, of the Hamilton police crime investigation unit, said police attended the Hamilton property with Powercor officials expecting to find a grow house but it was a drying facility.
“We’ve seen a crop house located in Warrnambool last year but this was something different,” he told The Standard.
“It could have been used as a crop house in the near future.”
Detective Sergeant James said it was “the first house like this we’ve come across in Hamilton”.
“We believed it’s linked to Melbourne-based organised crime. It’s a commercial operation,” he said.
“There was not a stick of furniture in the house.”
Detective Sergeant James said he suspected the cannabis was grown elsewhere and transported to the Hamilton address to be dried in preparation for being sold.
“We seized the cannabis head and related equipment. The home was being used as a processing facility,” he said.
“It’s right in the middle of town in a quiet suburban street. It’s quite amazing.”